Please note my use of the word “likely” in the headline above. That means I’m not flat-out predicting anything. I’m just assessing the situation as it looks now, a week before Election Day.
At this writing, Mitt Romney seems to be running at least fairly well in 23 states, while President Obama is doing at least fairly well in 18 states. And the other nine states are said to be still up for grabs.
I think it’s reasonable to guess that Romney will carry at least three of those so-called swing states, which would give him a majority of the 50 states. But I doubt that he’ll prevail in the swing states he most needs to put him over the top in the Electoral College.
It might also turn out that Romney will win the national popular vote and still fail to garner enough electoral votes to capture the presidency. But I think there’s only one chance in three or four of that happening.
The bottom line here is that the polling analysts I most respect, Sam Wang and Nate Silver, still see a strong likelihood that Obama will get more than the 270 electoral votes he needs to win. I have no reason to question their projections, nor do I know of any other serious analysts who have come to different conclusions using similar methods of analysis.
Wang’s current estimate is that Obama will win 303 electoral votes. Silver puts the figure at 295 electoral votes.
If there’s any shift of electoral strength toward Romney over the next five or six days, which is not impossible by any means, I’m sure that Wang and Silver will catch it and revise their projections accordingly. Those projections may not be in complete agreement with each other, but it’s unlikely that one will see Obama winning while the other one doesn’t.
Silver’s conservative critics seem not to understand that he’s merely reporting on the numbers in the various state polls. He examines virtually all the polls in any given state, even the polls from Rasmussen, arrives at an average, assesses the likelihood of a significant shift, and then assigns the appropriate number of electoral votes.
As he put it in an interview yesterday with Politico: [T]his is not wizardry or rocket science. All you have to do is take an average, and count to 270. It’s a pretty simple set of facts.”
Silver also notably said this: “Romney, clearly, could still win.” But, of course, he’s not going to say that a Romney victory is likely unless and until it is likely.
We’ll probably know by Saturday or Sunday if there’s any significant shift afoot. If there is, then we’ll likely declare on Monday that all bets are off.